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The key to success? Belief in doing what you love

Here, we sit down with Donna Cheney, GFW Letting’s Regional Operations Manager, to discuss her thoughts on the role of women in business, reflecting on her own career paths and success.

You hold a senior position in GFW Letting which is a fantastic achievement; can you tell us how you got to this stage in your career?

“To be honest, establishing a career in the lettings industry was accidental. When I graduated, I joined a recruitment firm and was actually offered the job I was recruiting for (!) which was a lettings negotiator for a national lettings firm. Within two and a half years, I was promoted to branch manager and, after running that successfully, I was given a further two branches to manage that were under performing. In total, I spent 13 years at the company, before joining GFW letting as Regional Operations Manager.”

As women in business, do you feel you’ve been given an equal opportunity to succeed and progress your career?

“I have never felt like my gender has affected my career development. Achievement throughout my career and getting to the position I hold today is completely down to me, and my work ethic and determination as an individual, not a woman. Gender doesn’t define your success, a strong skill set and ambition does.”

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and what has this taught you?

“Becoming a branch manager was a huge challenge. I went from being a colleague to managing colleagues overnight and my relationship with them had to change, which was tough. I had to believe in myself and believe that the people around me trusted that I was right for the job. It made me realise that a team is everything. Leading by example and treating everyone as equals, male or female, with mutual support and respect is so important. Without that, you simply can’t move forward and be effective.”

What is the best advice you’ve been given and would like to pass on?

Donna: A manager once said something to me that has always stuck: “You have 24 hours in a day. For eight hours, you sleep (so have a good mattress), for another eight (balancing out weekends) you spend with your friends and family so love them unconditionally, and the rest, you work, so do something you love!”

If you’d like to find out more about our letting service, get in touch with Donna Cheney on or ​0191 284 7171.

How to maintain your tenanted property during winter

As a landlord, taking care of your let should be your priority, both for the tenant you’re currently providing a home to, and the long-term appeal of your let as a home that will be leased without much difficulty year on year.

During winter, it’s especially important to ensure your property is in good condition. Extreme weather changes, darker nights, and below freezing temperatures can all take their toll on the condition of a house or flat so it’s important that you take extra care of your tenanted property during the winter season.

Residential Property

Below, our Regional Operations Manager Donna Cheney, has some tips that will ensure your property remains safe, secure and in good condition during winter:

  • With the darker nights now in, perhaps it’s worth investing in security equipment for your tenanted property such as lighting or a burglary alarm. A well-lit or alarmed home with help your tenant feel more safe and secure or, if the property is vacant, such security measures could help to deter burglars.
  • As a landlord, you should perhaps think about getting an exterior cleaning specialist to clear the gutters of the property if you’re unable to do it yourself. Keep them free of leaves, moss, and general natural clutter. This will ensure that the gutters keep working as they should with no drainage issues and, by keeping them clean, they’re less likely to freeze during a cold spell.
  • This one is vital – have the boiler serviced. As a landlord, legally you must have a gas safety record in place, but too many landlords don’t have the boiler serviced annually. If you do service it once a year, this will reveal any potential issues which may cause a problem for your tenant over the cold winter months – the last thing you want is for your tenant to be without heating and hot water and then to struggle to get a gas engineer booked in for an urgent repair.
  • Ensure that pathways and steps are kept clear of leaves and other debris. These will help to provide a safe environment for your tenant as not doing this risks a serious fall hazard for the tenant or any other visitors if the property is vacant. Keeping pathways clear not only increases the ‘kerb appeal’ of your property, but also ensures that visitors are safe and secure when visiting, too.
  • Ensure that you as the landlord or your letting agent has sent a ‘Winter Letter’ to the tenant advising them to keep the heating on a constant temperature (minimum 16 degrees centigrade) to ensure that the pipes don’t freeze, to help the home provide a warm and safe environment for tenants living there.

If you’d like to discuss how to keep your tenanted property safe, secure, and in good condition during winter in more detail, please do pick up the phone or drop me a line on 0191 284 7171 or

Electrical Safety Testing: Are You Doing Enough?

As a landlord, there are several laws you must adhere to surrounding electrical safety. For instance, landlords must ensure that all electrical installations are safe (such as light fittings, wiring and sockets) and they also need to ensure that all portable appliances supplied by the landlord to the property are safe.  A portable appliance refers to anything in the property that has a plug, including kettles, washing machines, fridges, lamps etc.

A landlord has a legal duty of care to ensure the safety of tenants. As recent high-profile cases of tragedies caused by appliances highlight, there really should be no hesitation as far as a landlord is concerned to have the necessary tests done.

There is nothing written in black and white, however, about regular testing of appliances, or how often it should be carried out unless you are a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) landlord where a Periodic Inspection is required every five years, by law.

Common sense should prevail though, and landlords should ensure a fully qualified electrician carries out regular safety checks. The generally accepted timescales are to have a portable appliance test carried out annually and a Periodic Inspection every five years.  The cost to carry out such tests, and regularly, is insignificant compared to the risk if anything was unsafe to use.

A Portable Appliance Test costs approximately £60, with a Periodic Inspection around £100. The electrician who conducts the testing should provide copies of certificates once they are completed and in the case of Portable Appliance Tests, anything that does not pass should be immediately removed and replaced with a new item.  For Periodic Inspections, the electrician may recommend works for anything that does not meet the current safety standards, and a landlord should always ensure that they have any remedial works carried out as soon as possible.

Penalties for landlords not ensuring their electrics are safe can include a £5,000 fine per non-compliant item, 6 months’ imprisonment or possible manslaughter charges if the worst happened and a tenant died because of unsafe electrics. Is it really worth the risk?

For further information, the below two guides provide an easy to understand explanation of the current legislation and how it applies to landlords.

WIN Awards 2015

We are all about celebrating our people and their successes so are delighted that Holly Armstrong and Fran Mulhall have been shortlisted in the North East Women Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2015 – congratulations!

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A months rent or a Glastonbury tent…

A great article by the Telegraph this weekend shows how far your money goes at Glastonbury.  Click here to read the full article

A few stats…

  • The average festival goer will spend £425 for the weekend at Glastonbury.
  • The trend for a rent-a-tent or high end camping at Glastonbury can be up to 3.5x more expensive than the average monthly rent for a one bedroom flat.